In 2016 Qrious wanted a partner to amplify our position in the Wellington market. Fortunately, we knew just where to look.
Clarity is a great New Zealand success story. With a culture of excellence and a deep understanding of the customer, they were the only game in town for Qrious’ Murray Price. In mid-2016 Murray and the Clarity founders, Wouter de Vos and Evan Wilson met, talked, and began negotiations. By August 1 Clarity was a part of Qrious.
It’s a rare thing when the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. We asked Murray to talk us through how the deal came together and what it means for Qrious going forward.
A commitment to excellence
When Wouter de Vos and Evan Wilson decided to start a business together, they were clear on one thing. “The most important thing to us was people… people who focused on excellence, had the same expertise and shared the same ethos… people who we knew we could be proud of in the market”. The business they built was Clarity, created by the two in 2010.
They’d met two years earlier. Working on data warehousing and BI implementations around Wellington, a common commitment to customer eventually pulled them into each other’s orbits. Once together they realised they got along pretty well and, more than that, enjoyed working together. In fact, they were just the kind of people they’d feel comfortable recommending to other businesses. Several months later they found the market opportunity they’d been after. A shared job at the Ministry of Social Development was their last task as contractors – signing off, they took a deep breath and the business was born – a boutique data warehouse and BI organisation, intimately connected to the market, and with an immaculate list of contacts for their customers.
“Having resourced projects ourselves, we were exasperated with traditional recruiters. We felt we knew what customers wanted, and realised traditional recruiters just didn’t understand this market”. The commitment to excellence in people wasn’t just a warm and fuzzy thing. It delivered a significant advantage to Clarity from the beginning. In Wouter’s words, it meant there was a real support network for any problem the team encountered. “We just knew if we had the right people, and knew who you were working with – then we could lean on each other and trust each other and in turn share that trust with our customers”.
The intimate, knowledgeable approach bore fruit, and within a couple years Clarity had delivered data projects for a number of high profile clients, ranging from the IRD and ACC through to NZ Rugby. But tech is all about change. Big Data was the coming thing, and sensing another opportunity, Wouter and Evan adapted Clarity accordingly. They quickly realised they faced a challenge.
“Big Data is the spawning of open source innovation in tools for accessing and processing data – especially around analytics capability and the types of data you can analyse”, says Evan. “We saw that opportunity and tried a few things, but quickly realised it’s a hard thing to offer as a service – you need a lot of money, backing and resource… you need teams of people to help you make sense of the breadth of tools now available. We knew we couldn’t deliver that with our existing set up”.
Which is where I enter the story.
A data-driven equation – where two plus two equals five
By 2016 I’d helped Qrious build a solid presence in Wellington, and particularly within Government. But I knew there was more we could aim for. I’d been researching possible pre-sales resource for a while. I knew I could help Government agencies see the valuable outcomes data could deliver for them, but at a certain point those discussions would turn technical. I needed guys with the kudos to not just hold their own, but effectively lead on those customer discussions.
Rather than simply hire someone, I seeded the idea of a strategic acquisition with the Qrious exec, and once I received sign off I only ever had one partner in mind. I knew it was Clarity’s technical expertise and base of trusted relationships I really wanted. Clarity and Qrious have great synergy – I just knew they were the best organisation of their type in Wellington, the best personal reputation, and the best cultural alignment.
Funnily enough, it turned out Clarity had been quietly keeping their eye on me. “We’d been impressed with Murray’s work here in Wellington – his ability to open up markets for Qrious, gain access to really big markets, and deliver really big results was a little awe inspiring. We didn’t know anyone else who had made such an impact in the market in such a short time”, says Evan. And although we knew from the start we had a good fit, I don’t think any of us really knew just how well it would turn out.
“One of the biggest surprises for us was just the level of technical smarts at Qrious”, says Evan. “We brought a team of twenty with us when we joined Qrious. We were totally blown away by the calibre of talent in the organisation. Weaving our guys into the Qrious organisation has been a dream. We keep looking at each other, wondering how these ideas and pure technical smarts had been hidden from us for so long”.
And it wasn’t just us. Our customers agreed. “One of the real benefits for our customer base is access to a scale of service and delivery we could never have delivered as a standalone business” agrees Wouter. “The scale, breadth and pure heft that Qrious can bring to the table for our customers is a game changer”.
I think a few months into it, the thing I’m most rapt with is the clear line up we now have between customer needs and the resource we can now call on. The pool of talent capable of top notch advice in our game is pretty small, and so many times an organisation’s internal teams hit that knowledge wall. By introducing Evan and Wouter we have two guys capable of translating tech into non-tech for our customers, backed up by an amazing team of consulting resource, and at the same time capable of stepping up to the demanding technical conversation. And behind it all, we have the scale and smarts of Qrious.
Happily ever after
So, six months into the marriage we’re going from strength to strength. Our business and personal philosophies are in sync, even down to a deep philosophical alignment with current Government investment philosophies.
We all share this common belief – if you’re going to spend significant money, with a view to improving outcomes for groups of people, then it’s really important to be able to show how that has a lasting impact. Qrious, with the Clarity team brought into the fold, are driven to solve really big problems, with scaled solutions, based on data. Throwing money at problems is easy; much more effective is understanding how we as a group can use our scale to help Government identify the long-term outcomes required, and plan back to the actions we can take now to effect that.
Overall it’s an exciting time. Before Clarity came into the organisation our competition offered platforms, data, and data science capability. Qrious had an advantage through our proprietary data sets (through Spark). But we’ve really taken a quantum leap by bringing in the Clarity team and their suite of services and resources at their disposal. Locally that makes us pretty special and I’m not sure outside of the Big Four you’re going to get that level of capability anywhere else.